• catalysts;
  • hydrogenation;
  • nanocomposites;
  • nickel;
  • nickel nitride


In the search for alternative materials to current expensive catalysts, Ni has been addressed as one of the most promising and, on this trail, its corresponding nitride. However, nickel nitride is a thermally unstable compound, and therefore not easy to prepare especially as nanoparticles. In the present work, a sol–gel-based process (the urea glass route) is applied to prepare well-defined and homogeneous Ni3N and Ni nanoparticles. In both cases, the prepared crystalline nanoparticles (∼25 nm) are dispersed in a carbon matrix forming interesting Ni3N- and Ni-based composites. These nanocomposites were characterised by means of several techniques, such as XRD, HR-TEM, EELS, and the reaction mechanism was investigated by TGA and IR and herein discussed. The catalytic activity of Ni3N is investigated for the first time, to the best of our knowledge, for hydrogenation reactions involving H2, and here compared to the one of Ni. Both materials show good catalytic activities but, interestingly, give a different selectivity between different functional groups (namely, nitro, alkene and nitrile groups).